Read No Lack of Courage Online

Authors: Colonel Bernd Horn

No Lack of Courage



Operation Medusa,


General (Retired) R.J. Hillier

Copyright © Colonel Bernd Horn, 2010

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise (except for brief passages for purposes of review) without the prior permission of Dundurn Press. Permission to photocopy should be requested from Access Copyright.

Editor: Cheryl Hawley
Design: Jennifer Scott
Printer: Webcom

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

Horn, Bernd, 1959-

No lack of courage : Operation Medusa, Afghanistan / by Bernd Horn ; foreword by R.J. Hillier.

Includes index.
Also issued in electronic format.
ISBN 978-1-55488-820-7

1. Operation Medusa, Afghanistan, 2006. 2. Afghan War, 2001- --Regimental histories--Canada. 3. Canada--Armed Forces--Afghanistan. 4. Courage--Afghanistan--Case studies. I. Title.

DS371.4123.O655H67 2010       958.104'7       C2010-902421-4

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We acknowledge the support of the
Canada Council for the Arts
and the
Ontario Arts Council
for our publishing program. We also acknowledge the financial support of the
Government of Canada
through the
Canada Book Fund
The Association for the Export of Canadian Books
, and the
Government of Ontario
through the
Ontario Book Publishers Tax Credit
program, and the
Ontario Media Development Corporation

Care has been taken to trace the ownership of copyright material used in this book. The author and the publisher welcome any information enabling them to rectify any references or credits in subsequent editions.

J. Kirk Howard, President

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Chapter One — “Exporting Stability”: Canada and Afghanistan

Chapter Two — A Growing Storm

Chapter Three — Genesis of an Operation

Chapter Four — Opening Salvos

Chapter Five — Chaos at the White Schoolhouse

Chapter Six — Tragedy at Dawn

Chapter Seven — Payback

Chapter Eight — Declaring Victory

Chapter Nine — The Reality of the Long War




Glossary of Abbreviations


Map by Chris Johnson.


to have been given the opportunity to write the foreword for
No Lack of Courage: Operation Medusa, Afghanistan
. As an officer in the Canadian Forces for over 35 years, I had the privilege of serving with many of the finest men and women Canada has to offer. Significantly, as the chief of the Defence Staff, I had the honour of commanding our country's sons and daughters while our nation was at war. Throughout that period I was struck by the courage and tenacity of our service personnel and especially their families. Heroic individuals who, despite the pain of loss or grievous injury, maintained a stoic disposition because of their love of country and belief in the cause for which they or their loved ones fought. Their courage constantly buoyed my own spirit through those tragic periods when we suffered casualties.

But more importantly, their strength reinforced my belief in our own warrior spirit. For much of my career the Canadian Forces was described as a peacekeeping military and our soldiers, sailors, and airmen as peacekeepers. Too often our proud military legacy as war-fighters was conveniently ignored in preference of a more benign descriptor as humanitarians and “Blue Berets.” Seemingly lost was the belief that our Canadian Forces were actually capable of combat operations.

Afghanistan changed that perception. Everyone, from our fellow Canadians to our Allies and coalition partners to even our enemies, has been reminded of the courage and tenacity of the Canadian soldier. And no event was more seminal in passing on that message than Operation Medusa.
During those two weeks in September 2006, in the hot, dusty killing fields of Panjwayi, in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, Canadian soldiers, like their forefathers before them, fought desperate and savage battles to defeat a vicious and brutal enemy intent on imposing their will on others.

The cost was high. On that terrible Labour Day weekend in 2006, one of the engaged sub-units, Charles Company of the 1st Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment Battle Group, lost their company commander, a company sergeant-major, one out of three platoon commanders, all three platoon warrant officers (one wounded, two killed), five of nine section commanders, and all of their sections' second-in-command master-corporals. In total, they suffered five killed and more than 40 wounded in a 48-hour period. But it is important to note that those who survived stepped up. A young sergeant promoted to that rank less than a year earlier became the company sergeant-major. Young master-corporals became platoon commanders and platoon second-in-commands. Equally remarkable, young soldiers became section commanders and they carried on the operation and the fight against the Taliban that gave NATO such an incredible boost. After all, political and military decision makers in Afghanistan and NATO all publicly stated that Operation Medusa, in essence NATO's first actual battle, was key to the very survival of Afghanistan, if not the NATO alliance itself.

And our troops were successful. Fighting a savage enemy in some of the harshest conditions and terrain any Canadian soldier has ever had to endure, they fought in close-quarter combat for days on end and overcame a determined and cunning enemy. In the end, Operation Medusa is a true Canadian epic.
No Lack of Courage
is an amazing account of those tragic yet inspiring days, when Canadians demonstrated the justly earned reputation as fierce warriors. Told in the words of those who were actually there, this book vividly captures an important piece of Canadian military history and should be read by everyone.

General (Retired) R.J. Hillier


and relative calm of the Afghan afternoon betrayed the overpowering undercurrent of tension permeating the area surrounding the non-descript, white schoolhouse complex nestled in the Panjwayi District of Kandahar Province. Hidden away in bunkers and fortified buildings was a group of fanatical Taliban fighters, tightening up the slack on their triggers as they nervously eyed the approaching Canadian vehicles. Simultaneously, the soldiers from “C” Company (Coy), 1st Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment Battle Group (1 RCR BG), rolled their vehicles slowly toward the suspected enemy position. In a split second the hot, relatively quiet countryside erupted in a fusillade of noise, explosions, and death. The fight was on.

That event, which became known as Operation Medusa, was a major offensive conducted by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) with assistance from the Afghan National Army (ANA), from 1–17 September 2006. Their objective was to establish government control over an area of Kandahar Province centered on the district of Panjwayi, approximately 30 kilometres from Kandahar City, the birthplace and heartland of the Taliban. The region was undeniably an enemy stronghold. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO) intent, under whose auspices ISAF was operating, was to destroy or capture the insurgents who had dug-in to fight. Initially the campaign design followed a phased approach of engaging the local leaders diplomatically, to attempt to minimize the level of death and destruction in the immediate area, and then
to apply superior and precise combat power as required. By 2 September 2006 it was apparent that combat was inevitable. The brunt of that combat fell to the Canadians.

The road to Operation Medusa was a long one. It began almost five years before on the morning of 11 September 2001 (9/11). At the time, no one could have predicted that the world was about to change. As nations were beginning to come to grips with the instability of the post-Cold War era, a global upsurge in terrorist attacks failed to cause a spike in concern among Western nations. After all, terrorism was a timeless tactic of the weak.

However, the world did change on 9/11. The attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Center, which was as symbolic as it was destructive, struck at the very core of Western values in a way that the world had never experienced. Moreover, it was an attack against Americans on U.S. soil. Not since the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor, on 7 December 1941, had the U.S. suffered casualties due to a foreign hostile act on its homeland.

Not surprisingly, the response was immediate and all-consuming. In retaliation, then-American President George W. Bush declared a global war on terrorism. His first target was the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, accused of harbouring and abetting the terrorist, Osama bin Laden, who was deemed responsible for the attack on American soil. Bush subsequently launched Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), designed to topple the Taliban and capture or destroy bin Laden and his fellow al Qaeda senior leaders and fighters.

The Europeans, albeit reluctantly, responded in support of their American ally. The reality was that they had little choice. For over half a century the Americans stood on guard at great expense to protect Europe under the NATO alliance. With the assault against the Americans, the Europeans had to live up to the NATO mantra: an attack on one member is tantamount to an attack against all members of the alliance.

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